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Bond Report: Two-year Treasury yield posts longest rising streak in over a month as investors consider need for tighter Fed policy after inflation data

The two-year Treasury yield posted its longest streak of rises in more than a month on Wednesday, as investors digested the latest reading on U.S. inflation and assessed the need for tighter monetary policy by the Federal Reserve.

The gap or differential between yields of various maturities narrowed, pointing to the return of possible worries about the economic outlook.

What are yields doing?

The 2-year Treasury note

yield rose 3.8 basis points to 0.644% versus 0.606% on Tuesday. That’s the highest since March 3, 2020, based on 3 p.m. levels, according to Dow Jones Market Data. The rate has climbed over each of the last four trading days, the longest rising streak since Oct. 13.

The 10-year Treasury note yield BX:TMUBMUSD10Y, declined 2.1 basis points to 1.644%, compared with 1.665% on Tuesday.

The 30-year Treasury bond yield

dropped 5.3 basis points to 1.969%, compared with 2.022% on Tuesday afternoon.

What’s driving the market?

Yields for shorter-dated maturities, like the 2-year note, climbed this week on expectations that Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, who was renominated for a second term by President Joe Biden on Monday, has a new mandate to accelerate the pace of the Fed’s reduction of monthly asset purchases, with an eye toward curbing a surge in inflation and eventually lifting interest rates.

In an interview with Yahoo Finance published on Wednesday, San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly said that a case can be made for speeding up the central bank’s tapering in December.

Meanwhile, minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee’s Nov. 2-3 meeting, released Wednesday, show that some policy makers pushed their colleagues for tapering bond purchases at a faster pace than the $15 billion per-month schedule that was agreed at the meeting.

The 2-year Treasury note yield, the most sensitive to changing interest-rate expectations, is hovering around its highest level since March of 2020, but the 10-year hasn’t risen as much by comparison, causing the differential between the two yields to narrow on Wednesday, according to Tradeweb data as of 3 p.m Eastern time. The gap between 5- and 30-year yields also shrank, which is sometimes seen as a sign of worries about the economic outlook.

Data released Wednesday showed the Fed’s preferred PCE inflation gauge soaring at the fastest pace in 31 years. The 12-month increase in the core rate of the government’s personal consumption expenditure price index moved up in October to 4.1% from 3.7%. That’s the highest level since December 1990.

In other data, consumers are expressing less optimism than any other time in the past decade amid “rapidly escalating inflation,” according to Richard Curtin, chief economist for the University of Michigan’s sentiment survey.

U.S. weekly jobless claims fell to their lowest level since November 1969. New filings for jobless benefits plunged by 71,000 to 199,000 in the seven days ended Nov. 20. The report was released one day early because of the holiday on Thursday.

Data also showed that the U.S. economy grew at a revised 2.1% annual rate in the third quarter. Consumer spending and private inventory investment mostly accounted for the upward revision from 2.0%, the Commerce Department said Wednesday.

U.S. durable-goods orders fell 0.5% in October to mark the second decline in a row. The decline stemmed entirely from fewer orders for passenger planes, an up-and-down category that often distorts the level of underlying demand in the economy. Meanwhile, U.S. manufacturers such as General Motors Co.

and Whirlpool Corp.

had plenty of orders, signaling the economy is getting stronger.

This week’s selloff in bonds, which has led to rising yields, has been amplified by seasonally lower volumes, analysts say, noting that the days before U.S. Thanksgiving tends to be comparatively thinly traded.

What analysts are saying

“We still think that market expectations for a series of rate hikes beginning by mid-2022 are overdone, particularly as inflation will be declining by that time, but the FOMC has clearly woken up to the realisation that, even if it falls back somewhat, inflation is likely to remain above target for some considerable time,” said Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist for Capital Economics.

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